One would be forgiven for feeling a weight on one’s soul with each sporadic, slowly unfolding fragment of unfortunate news from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor crisis. While not newsworthy in an “info-entertainment” sense it is probably inevitable that we continue to follow the sombre narrative as if a friend or acquaintance was declining slowly:
The government expects that several months may be required before radioactive particles stop being released from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, its top spokesman said Sunday.
”If we apply methods considered to be normal, I believe that it will be something like that,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference, when asked whether at least several months would be required before the plant crippled by the devastating March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami is brought under control.
NYT caption: In an image provided by Tokyo Electric Power Company, contaminated water from the crippled No. 2 reactor is seen leaking through a crack and draining into the ocean at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northern Japan on Saturday.
But several months of what?:
Experts estimate that about seven tons an hour of radioactive water is escaping the pit. Safety officials have said that the water, which appears to be coming from the damaged No. 2 reactor, contains one million becquerels per liter of iodine 131, or about 10,000 times the levels normally found in water at a nuclear plant.
Hiroko Tabuchi and Ken Belson – Efforts to Plug Japanese Reactor Leak Seem to Fail NYT 3 Apr 11
OK, we are surely getting a crash course on nuclear physics and public safety as the ramifications of the continuing radiation impacts are quantified locally and in the world at large.
The whole world is certainly watching:
For the clearest picture of what is happening at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, talk to scientists thousands of miles away.
Thanks to the unfamiliar but sophisticated art of atomic forensics, experts around the world have been able to document the situation vividly. Over decades, they have become very good at illuminating the hidden workings of nuclear power plants from afar, turning scraps of information into detailed analyses.
For example, an analysis by a French energy company revealed far more about the condition of the plant’s reactors than the Japanese have ever described: water levels at the reactor cores dropping by as much as three-quarters, and temperatures in those cores soaring to nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to burn and melt the zirconium casings that protect the fuel rods.
William J Broad – From Afar, a Vivid Picture of Japan Crisis NYT 2 Apr 11
Indeed, the “atomic forensics” potentially tell us a lot:
Anyone familiar with the diaries following this story would recognise the sources cited in this interview. Worried? Join the club. The engineers and workers risking their health to contain this tragedy are faced with a number of difficult choices. Anyone watching the TEPCO Fukishima webcam over recent weeks would have observed the almost continual release of steam, and sometimes recurring black smoke, from the crippled site; framed among otherwise pacific sunrises and dusks. But here’s a recent high-definition close-up of what the engineers and workers are dealing with:
There are a number of potential outcomes to this crisis but at the moment none of them seem to exclude the release of a significant fraction of the radiological material barely under control in some units at the site.